(June 15, 2016 / JNS) By Eliana Rudee/JNS.org
Latin night. People are dancing, drinking, laughing, and celebrating their freedom to love whomever they chose. While having fun in their safe space, one of the only places they feel comfortable to be who they are in public, they hear bullets and consequently, screaming. Some are swept into the bathroom and held hostage. Some are immediately killed. Many send texts to their families, saying “I love you” and “I’m going to die.” Many of them did.
This is the fault of a man whose hate overcame him, who believed he should murder to fulfill his ideology. Perhaps he was stuck between two identities, a radical Muslim and a gay man who decided to reconcile the two by killing one of the identities. We may never know for sure. But whatever the motive, he was not the only one responsible for 49 deaths. This man told his coworkers he was going to kill “a whole lot of people.” He told his peers that he hated gays and African-Americans. He was on the radar of the FBI multiple times. He had the legal access to guns. We had warnings. The warnings were not followed up on—at least not enough. I believe that we owe something to the many victims of the horrendous attack. I believe I owe them each promises.
1. Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21, I promise to fight homophobia everywhere.
2. Amanda Alvear, 25, I promise to fight radicalism.
3. Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25, I promise to do what I can to make sure your death will not just be another headline.
4. Antonio Davon Brown, 20, I promise to spread love in the world.
5. Akya Monet Murray, 18, I promise to always speak up when I hear homophobic remarks.
6. Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28, I promise to fight Islamic terrorism.
7. Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49, I promise to fight racism.
8. Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32, I promise that when I walk hand in hand with my boyfriend, I will not take my safety for granted.
9. Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24, I promise to keep politicians accountable.
10. Cory James Connell, 21, I promise to appreciate security forces even further.
11. Darryl Roman Burt II, 29, I promise to learn more about how to defend myself and protect others.
12. Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32, I promise to fight hate in my own community.
13. Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25, I promise to support those with mental illness.
14. Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34, I promise to attempt to understand motives for terrorism and violence.
15. Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30, I promise to tell my mom that I love her.
16. Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36, I promise to advocate for immigrants’ rights to a good life in the U.S.
17. Frank Hernandez, 27, I promise to be grateful every morning.
18. Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50, I promise to protest violence of all kinds.
19. Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25, I promise to make people laugh.
20. Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25, I promise to live with compassion and hope.
21. Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24, I promise not only to pray and reflect, but ACT for better laws.
22. Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27, I promise to question all religions that believe LGBTQ people are anything but humans who require equal rights, because that’s obvious.
23. Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35, I promise to amplify LGBTQ voices.
24. Juan (Drew) Ramon Guerrero, 22, I promise to fight for the freedom to be who you are.
25. Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37, I promise to be thankful for life.
26. Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19, I promise to live life to the fullest.
27. Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25, I promise to fight for LGBTQ Muslims who have come out of the closet.
28. Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40, I promise to fight for LGBTQ Muslims who have yet to come out of the closet.
29. Jerald Arthur Wright, 31, I promise to remind myself that everyone is facing their own personal battles before judging.
30. Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32, I promise to protect and respect LGBTQ safe spaces.
31. Kimberly (KJ) Morris, 37, I promise to smile.
32. Luis S. Vielma, 22, I promise to keep a positive attitude.
33. Luis Daniel Conde, 39, I promise to tell my family how much they mean to me.
34. Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37, I promise to live for myself, but mostly for others.
35. Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20, I promise to dance.
36. Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25, I promise to be grateful for my friends and family.
37. Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26, I promise to, in the midst of serious events, have fun and let loose.
38. Miguel Angel Honorato, 30, I promise to push myself to be more honest and open in my relationships.
39. Martin Benitez Torres, 33, I promise to be kind to strangers.
40. Oscar A Aracena-Montero, 26, I promise never to resign because of pessimism.
41. Paul Terrell Henry, 41, I promise to spend more quality time with family.
42. Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22, I promise to find silver linings.
43. Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33, I promise to give blood.
44. Stanley Almodovar III, 23, I promise to be more understanding of those who are not like me.
45. Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31, I promise to help others feel good about themselves.
46. Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33, I promise to listen better.
47. Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25, I promise to be courageous in the face of adversity.
48. Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35, I promise to teach tolerance and love to my future children.
49. Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24, I promise that despite all the hate in the world, I will remember all the love there is out there.
For those who have been deeply affected by this horrendous attack, who are still fighting for their lives, and who are healing their physical and emotional wounds, I promise to do what I can to make something positive out of this tragedy.
Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Haym Salomon Center and the author of the “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied international relations and Jewish studies. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and The Hill. Follow her column on JNS.org.